Language Trend Survey 2018: German provision at UK schools ‘at risk of extinction’

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Guardian, 27th June 2018

The latest survey commissioned by the British Council that assesses foreign language learning at UK schools has just been published. It highlights the continuing downward trend in language learning from primary school through to post 16-education over recent years. There is a particular concern regarding inequity in access to language learning with a widening gap in provision between state and independent schools and between pupils of lower ability and with special educational needs and middle and high-attaining children, with the former showing a higher uptake of language learning. Furthermore, boys are underrepresented both at GCSE and A-level language study. As the I News comments, some pupils and parents appear to turn their back on language learning following the Brexit vote.

Only 3% of primary schools teach German, while 75% teach French and 23% Spanish. In 2017, there were 45,000 GCSE entries in German (131,000 in French, 91,000 in Spanish), compared to 66,000 in 2010. A-level entries in German in 2017 have reached a historic low with just 3,300 (9,000 in 2010), compared to 7,600 in Spanish and 8,300 in French.

A curriculum and assessment specialist interviewed by the Guardian, Suzanne O’Farrell, is particularly worried about German. “People are not offering it in schools. We will not have the teachers to teach it. There’s no take-up. As we see the rise of Spanish, it’s signalling the death knell of German”.

In this overall context, it is encouraging to see the German Saturday schools thriving. Many of them have long waiting lists indicating a high demand that we can only satisfy if more Saturday schools are set up.


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